MONTPELLIER have released Vern Cotter from the remaining period of his contract with the French Top 14 outfit. The New Zealander is understood to have reached agreement with club owner Mohed Altrad to leave now rather than in June when his contract expires. His replacement, Philippe Saint-André, is set to step into the post this week, according to media reports in France.
Cotter moved to Montpellier in 2017 after being replaced by Gregor Townsend in the Scotland job.He led the side to the Top 14 final in his first season. However, that defeat against Castres proved to be the high point of his spell in charge and was followed by a loss against Lyon in the play-offs last year.
Nevertheless, Cotter leaves the club with a positive record having seen 32 wins and a draw during 55 matches in charge. He was also credited with increasing the French contingent in a squad that had a heavy South African bias under his predecessor Jake White.
Among Cotter’s signings this season was full-back Anthony Bouthier, who joined from second tier outfit Vannes and has gone on to make a mark on the international scene with two impressive Guinness Six Nations performances for France.
At the end of last season, Cotter was given a new role as director of rugby, and replaced as head coach by Xavier Garbajosa, who then started to appoint his own team. Scots Nathan Hines and Richie Gray remain at Montpellier in specialist coaching roles for now.
Cotter, who led Clermont Auvergne to a domestic title and a European Challenge Cup success before becoming Scotland coach in 2014, will take up his next position in charge of Fiji this summer. He has been handed the task of building a side capable of competing at the 2023 World Cup in France, starting with the test match against Tonga on 4 July.